Pokémon X And Y: Where Better Graphics Actually Affect Gameplay

By Laura . October 4, 2013 . 10:00am

Every Pokémon generation has given us something new, not just with the Pokémon themselves or with gameplay, but also in terms of visual quality and the effects that can have on the game. This generation’s Pokémon X and Pokémon Y have made the most enormous leap of all—into 3D—and this brings its own set of improvements.


The Kalos region in Pokémon X and Y is beautiful. The world really comes alive with the new 3D approach in how it’s presented, which feels like quite the step up from previous games. In addition to the gorgeous overworld, though, I feel that the most unique aspects of Pokémon X and Y can be found in the caves, dungeons, and Lumiose City itself, all of which seem to have been turned into experimental playgrounds for techniques never before employed in a mainline Pokémon RPG.


For starters, a lot of the caves in the game are displayed in stereoscopic 3D. While this doesn’t sound earth-shattering, keep in mind that the rest of the environments cannot be viewed using the 3D effect on the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, the 3DS disables it most of the time, reserving it for use in battles and cutscenes… and of course, in caves. The caves in particular use the stereoscopic 3D very well—and yet, the 3D effect is the tiniest of differences between the caves and the rest of the overworld. While the 3D is nice to have, it’s the other little details that really make the difference.


For example, there is a single smaller cave out in the middle of Pokémon X and Y’s ocean called the Sea Spirit’s Den, which consists of just one room. Presumably, this room will be of importance later (you don’t just leave a blank, open space like that for nothing), but what struck me when I entered this space for the first time was just how moody it was. The complete silence, and then the drip-drop sound of water droplets, creating their own music.


Then there’s the Reflection Cave, which doesn’t employ stereoscopic 3D. True to the creators’ vision, though, this cave exploits the beauty of the 3DS’ graphical capabilities as much as it can. Usually in Pokémon caves, you find the standard puzzles—pushing rocks with Strength, making your way through mazes, using Flash (which, by the way, has a completely different effect in X/Y), and, if you count dungeons, being shoved through the floor by transporters that work like conveyor belts. These may or may not have tickled your brain cells in past games, but regardless, all of these puzzles could be done using simple, Game Boy-style graphics, and we haven’t moved from that since, even as Pokémon found its way to better hardware over the years.


Until now, that is. In the Reflection Cave, visuals enhancements are used as part of puzzle-solving, and it works beautifully.


The Reflection Cave is a cave with the walls coated with glass-like sheets, allowing you see your reflection almost perfectly. This, in combination with the new camera that sits lower than in previous Pokémon games, allows you to see the reflection of the ledges present in Pokémon caves that are usually blind to you as the player, and this mechanic is what you have to use to get through the cave. That’s the kind of detail we’ve never seen before and it brings something new to exploration.



Another of the most unique areas in the game is the Glittering Cave, which can be separated into two sections. The second section isn’t very unique—it serves as a Team Flare stomping ground so the focus is on them, and it doesn’t try anything particularly innovative. (The 3D option is still present, though, so you can view the glowing blue and green walls in all its glory.) The first section, however, consists of a long, tubular cave, barely wide enough to fit your trainer.


In this section of the game, the camera sits right behind you at eye-level, making you feel like you yourself are traveling down the meandering path. There are a few branches, and should you decide to take a turn, the camera swivels around to keep up with you. Viewing this portion of the game in stereoscopic 3D is a real treat. There are also no random encounters here. Instead, at intervals, you’ll see a dark patch ahead of you, blocking your way. Approaching the patch causes a wild Pokémon to leap out at you and draw you into battle.


This new “symbol encounter”-style of meeting wild Pokémon is also present in the badlands that sit outside of Lumiose City. The badlands are similar to a desert area in that they’re completely barren. There are skate rails and cliff drops to add some variety to the area, and sometimes the wind will blow hard enough that you’ll have difficulty traveling by rollerblade or bike in one direction. The most interesting aspect of the badlands, though, is the Pokémon. Here, too, there are no random encounters.


Instead, you’ll see shadows burrowing around underground. Unlike the stationary black patches that await you in the Glittering Cave, though, these mounds of dirt will actively hound you and even follow you for some distance if you approach them. And these are just the things I’ve seen relatively early on in the game.


Pokémon X and Pokémon Y may bring us new Pokémon and graphics, but they also take advantage of these to incorporate new ideas to the Pokémon series and experimenting in terms of how they work with what is traditionally “Pokémon”. While these caves and experiments are short and trivial in the grand scheme of the game, they certainly provide a window of insight as to what Pokémon can accomplish in the future.

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  • Robgoro

    I’m very jealous of you, Laura ;) Thanks for writing this up. Do you use the d-pad more than the circle pad for getting around?

    • Circle pad is for larger movements. However, skates can be hard to move around in (I had so much trouble taking some of the videos because I kept playing the you-step-right-I-step-right game with NPCs in skates), so the D-pad has you run/walk.

      • JohnNiles

        Ughhh. I hate bouncing off NPCs. That’s one thing Animal Crossing does right: you just shove them out of the way.

        • British_Otaku

          One of the most interesting games I played as far walking into NPC was the second Zoids GBA RPG (Zoids Legacy I think), you couldn’t walk through them and since they wander quite a bit you could find yourself trapped on rare occasions or when you seek it out.

          You could walk through them by holding forward (whatever direction they are relative to you) and hoping they walk into you then you slip through. >_>

          Animal Crossing sounds like it has a good idea with pushing them out of the way.

        • FlyingPony

          Assassin Creed (forgot which version) have the shoving people out too.

  • Godman

    Based on that video I’m going to get so lost lol
    And since I don’t like using flash, it’s going to be worse (Then again I wonder what’s different about flash)

    • Flash acts as a weaker version (or maybe actually as?) a Repel now. It apparently decreases the encounter rate. I haven’t tried it.

      • Lynx


        Not sure how I feel about that, though it does make sense. If you were in a cave, would you want to go to the light?

        • Remember that Flash is apparently a light bright enough to induce blindness, which is why it decreases accuracy. What it basically means is that … I don’t think there are Flash caves? …Let me try teaching someone Flash and see if it can be used outside of battle, lol.
          Edit: …Sorry, temporary brain death. Of course it can be used outside of battle. I can’t tell if you can use it to brighten up caves, though ><

          • Steven Higgins

            Well, if you can use it in caves, the psudo-repel effect makes sense. Most Cave-dwelling Pokemon are photo-sensitive, much like RL cave animals, so a sudden burst of light would disorient them and cause them to scatter.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      lol I used to wing it now it looks like I got to make one of my team mates learn flash XD

  • Symbol de Au

    I’m going to end up going down every corridor of glittering cave, and running into the dark spots on purpose. This game might also give me a good reason to draw maps for myself like I used to.

    • Keep in mind that the caves vary in size. Glittering Cave is one of the shorter caves, unfortunately =( You won’t need a map ^^;

      Also interesting to note is that the dark spots don’t regenerate until you leave the area. When you do, though, the entire map refreshes.

      • Detrimont

        does this mean the layout is random?

        • The map isn’t. Where the dark spots are … might be. Maybe. Probably is?

          • Detrimont

            that makes sense, seeing as there’s probably an exit to the cave, and if the layout was random, the exit position would change, which wouldnt make sense

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      You should play more Etrian Oddysey

  • Raltrios

    The badlands there reminds me of the Mass Effect update for Minecraft…

  • 3PointDecoupage

    Pokemon taking after Tremors. Brilliant! I hope we can blow up some Dugtrio. XD

  • J_Joestar

    that sounds pretty cool,
    like if they are experimenting with possible forms of visible encounter that a lot of people beg for over the usual random encounters.

    is shaking grass audino speed grinding still a thing though?

    • I have not encountered shaking grass yet. To be fair … that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any. I just haven’t seen any myself.

      • Detrimont

        Laura, question, does the Kanto starter you pick come with the mega evolution item?
        (because i’m going to be transferring old kanto starter pokés, and i want to know if i’m able to find the other mega evo items in the wild)

        • I’m sorry.

          You’ll have to find out yourself.

          • Detrimont

            oh well
            4 days, 8 hours to go.
            i’m guessing you get given the kanto Mevo items though, so you can only get kanto Mevo per game

        • Andrew Fox

          Yes the Kanto starters come with the stones. You can buy the stones for other ones post-elite 4 though.

          • Detrimont

            i think i know that know, seeing as i was one of the first people in the world to legitimately own the game

  • Kilim


  • Brion Valkerion

    But can I get my Zubat, if not no buy!

    • There is an entire cave dedicated to Zubats, don’t you worry.

      • Slayven19

        Wait something is wrong here. Why don’t you have a mod tag laura? I’m positive I’ve seen you with one in the past unless I’m mistaken of course.

        • Herok♞

          Laura has written pieces for Sil many times but she has never been a mod. The mods are Spencer, Ishaan, M’iat M’iat, Drakos, Puchinri, Zero_Destiny, Fang and Kano

  • I would love to have a remake of emerald in 3DS. After you beat the game you can travel to Sinnoh or Kanto.

    • I don’t know how people casually throw suggestions like that around. I mean, we’re talking about adding another entire continent—effectively a whole second game.

      I mean, yeah, they did it back in the days of Gold/Silver/Crystal, but that was then, when production costs were a lot lower, and each game had a lot less to do. Plus, even back then, Kanto was a shadow of its former self.

      • School Idol Addict

        With how much money they make with each pokemon games, they could afford doing that if they want.

        • ShawnOtakuSomething

          or starting a kick starter

        • Suicunesol

          They could afford it, but it probably wouldn’t be worth the trouble if they could simply make a new game with that new region.

          You’re asking for twice as much content for the same amount of money.

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        yeah I just replayed Crystal man…Kanto bore me to death, even in the SS/HG Kanto part was meh. adding a post game where you travel to a new part of the region and adding side quests to unlock extras and items would not hurt

        • Detrimont

          Kanto was boring… even in gen 1 it was(just my opinion, but yeah, i don’t like kanto much)

      • Merely a suggestion. Don’t know why people are so… so quick to right it off. Jesus.

      • Suicunesol

        Whoa Ishaan, someone’s pissed at you today. *points out downvotes*

        • Apparently it’s a glitch XD

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            A glitch that’s here for 17 extra hours

        • That’s a bot or a glitch in Disqus. It’s been happening to a lot of people of late.

        • 古戸ヱリカ

          That, or people REALLY want that second continent…

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    Pokemon world logic: has the technology to make smartphones, Teleport pokemon across the world and time and revive fossils but yet to make flash lights for people to see in dark caves without making a Pokemon learn flash. lol

    • Suicunesol


      Gotta integrate Pokemon everywhere. Just like how Team Rocket doesn’t use firearms despite being a terrorist organization.

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        at lest it isn’t grown men using card games for life and death

        • Suicunesol


          It isn’t that farfetch’d, really. When 100 million dollars in a Poker game is on the line, it literally can be a life or death card game. Only difference is that Yu-Gi-Oh is a card game for children.

        • Tom_Phoenix

          Then again, the card games you mention often involved mystical powers and artifacts, so it’s little surprise that they frequently ended up being life-and-death affairs.

        • natchu96

          They have mass produced cards in that show, then we have literal gods and other deities sealed into cards that can somehow get killed by mass produced children’s card game collectables.

      • Sephiroth420

        they do have a suicide wheezing, with its explosion technique but yeah i kinda like that too.

    • Slayven19

      They have flashlights but they are trying to make you go with the flow of you becoming closer with your pokemon so I can give them that one. They’ve even used flashlights in the cartoons on some occasions, but then again I don’t know if the move flash exists in the cartoon.

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        I think they used flash once in the anime lol

        • Daniel Jeanbaptiste

          never used anime lol

    • Fire.fire.kun

      There are so many problems with Pokemon world logic that it’s better to turn off your brain and accept that it works. Lol

  • Suicunesol

    I am having so much trouble not spoiling myself… I don’t think I can handle another week of holding myself back.

    The video for glittering cave is really nice. I hope it’s not the only location in the game that has an angle like that.

    I am pretty irked by the stereoscopic 3D being inconsistent, though. Some caves have it, some caves don’t. Overworld doesn’t have it. Pokemon battles do. I’m a little surprised that Gamefreak couldn’t put s3D in certain locations considering that other 3DS games that look better were able to do it without trouble. Isn’t the constant switching between 3D and non-3D a bit jarring?

    • It is not the only area.

      There’s no switching. The s3D option is completely disabled when it doesn’t work. The light beside the slider disappears. And to be honest, I don’t play with the 3D on. I kind of just turn it on for a few seconds when I see the s3D light flip on.

      • Suicunesol

        I see. Well, you’re talking to someone who always has 3D on. So if my 3D switch is always on, then the game will definitely switch from 3D to non-3D by itself all the time. I was just saying it might be jarring that it does that.

  • knightr

    Is it just me or couldn’t nintendo/gamefreak have switch to the 3d look years ago I’m pretty sure pokemon had the money for it. Most fans are going crazy about the graphics update no longer being “bird’s eye view” 2d, yet other old games like dragon quest 9 did the same thing..

    • NimbusStev

      I think it would have looked ugly had they done 3D on the DS. I can’t think of many 3D games that looked good on that system. They were all blocky, polygonal messes.

      • knightr

        Maybe it could pull of the 3d sprites running around the map but I guess the old ds would be way too weak to have the 3d battles similar to the n64’s statium

      • DQIX did it fairly well, though most NPCs were 2D sprites.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      yeah that could have but it would have looked choppy and add limits to the game unless they had 2D sprites in a 3D background

    • Lynx

      They kinda did.

      Colisuem and XD.

      This is the first main game being FULL 3D.

  • Steven Higgins

    Sea Spirit’s Den, huh? In the middle of the ocean? A big, empty room?
    Calling it now, Z Legendary’s lair. It’l show up in post-game like they always do before their own game.

    • s07195

      Altering Cave back in Gen 3 begs to differ.

      • Steven Higgins

        Was that in Emerald? I don’t think it was in Sapphire.

        • s07195

          Firered, Leafgreen, and Emerald, yeah.
          It was open after you beat the Champion in Emerald, on route 203. (Which made it more puzzling since all there was were Zubats and some other Pokemon.)

          For FR/LG, it was at the very end of Seven Island.

          The thing is that the cave in all games had the same layout, but different color schemes. When I was younger, I thought Deoxys would be caught there. :/

          • Steven Higgins

            So the it DID show up post game, like I said they always do. Just to clarify, I meant the Z legendary will show up post game even though the area is obviously accessible during the story

  • FirstaLasto

    Laura, do you mind if I ask a few questions about the game? I hated the fifth generation games so I need to know a few things before I decide to purchase sixth gen.
    #1: is the change of music when your hp is low gone? i prefered the beeping from the older games. even if the music does change, but not into an entirely different song, id be happy. i want to keep listening to the battle theme the entire battle, yknow? (the “winning important battle” music doesnt bother me as much, mainly because it still sounds like battle music)
    #2: is the dream world gone? im not even going to bother explaining myself with this one, since very few people seem to agree with my opinions on this matter. of course you cant know if dream world pokemon can be transfered from the bank, since that isnt available yet, but are they at least gone from sixth gen itself?
    #3: not something i hated from fifth gen (being that customization wasnt even present) but more of something that would make me squee if it was in sixth, can my male character crossdress via boutiques? can he at least get a girly haircut?

    if two or more of these are “yes”, ill buy the game for sure (actually even if only #3 is yes ill get it)! hope to hear from you soon!

    • No change of music. As for the beeping, it appears three times and then falls silent. Original music still plays.

      I .. .THINK Dream World is still around? But I’m not sure. I can’t connect online.

      No, you can’t crossdress. However, you can get a rather girlish haircut. At the salon I chose “surprise me” and the stylish gave me this really short, tomboy-ish haircut :|

      • Suicunesol

        Since you seem very open to questions, Laura, may I ask what the L and R buttons do in this game?

        • Um … depends on the circumstance? They can scroll through menus, take pictures in Photo Mode, check attack parameters in battle…

          • Suicunesol

            I was mainly concerned about being able to register items to L and R because Pokemon games have historically been reluctant to use them for practical purposes.

      • FirstaLasto

        Well that first thing, wonderful. So happy. Just great. thanka so much for responding, by the way!
        second thing, bleeeeeeeeeh… ill have to wait for release to know for sure I guess.
        third thing, notsureifwant, looks like a score of 1.5 or so altogether. i think Ill pass on this game unless some new information comes out later that really blows my mind. but again, thanks much!

  • s07195

    ‘(you don’t just leave a blank, open space like that for nothing)’

    What about Altering Cave from the Gen 3 caves, then?

    • 古戸ヱリカ

      Blank, open spaces should be filled. Preferably with trucks.

    • Detrimont

      Altering Cave was for Johto pokemon(which werent found in many other places)

  • Max

    Is there any chance you could tell us the region code next to the barcode in the box so we know if US versions are region-free once again?

    • Detrimont

      it isnt

  • Sephiroth420

    you know it pisses me off to see that theyve done this for the 3ds, why didnt they just do a proper hd pokemon on the wiiu… da fuck… but im probably gonna get this as its the closest thing to a hd pokemon we’re gonna get for a while.

    • Arrei

      Why would they suddenly make a console Pokemon just because they’re moving to 3D graphics? Pokemon lives and breathes on portability and whatnot.

      • Sephiroth420

        the wiiu looks pretty portable to me, i think they would do because they want to give people a pokemon game which is really immersive, im not saying the others arnt, but a hd one would be the most immersive imo

        • Jrocy247

          Portable =/= walking outside your house with a Wii U.
          You do notice you’re just talking a bunch of nonsense right? And if you haven’t been paying attention, there might just be some kind of HD pokemon game on the Wii U. So really get over it.

      • WheelGert1

        They already made console games for pokemon, Colosseum and XD Gale of Darkness for the gamecube; so it is not crazy to think they would do the same for the Wii U in fact doing this would be a brilliant idea.

        However unlike Mario which was ported from console to portable easily enough; Pokemon’s primary successful platform is handheld, though going console could work the last time they tried it it didn’t work out that well.
        The creators of pokemon are probably keeping this in mind when thoughts of going console are brought up.

    • MrRobbyM

      Sephiroth420, everyone.

    • 3PointDecoupage

      1. Wii U sucks.
      2. Pokemon is a portable game. Always has been and always will be. That and Animal Crossing are the two games that have no business on a console.

      • WheelGert1

        Colosseum, XD Gale of Darkness for the gamecube both beg to differ, unfortunately these two titles were not as successful as they should have been and at the time they came out were hounded by some for “altering pokemon” and not being “true pokemo games” though I fall into the camp of people who loved those two titles and wanted more like them in the future for the Wii..
        The funny thing is if you look at the graphics in those games and X and Y there is a glaring similarity.

  • Suicunesol

    There’s an eShop banner saying that X and Y will be available at midnight on 10/12. Which is to say Friday night.

    …>_> I can steel myself until the morning… can’t I?

  • Ståle Laastad

    3ds games always looks so bad in screenshot!
    compare to how they look on the 3DS.

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